Caution: This article contains spoilers for The Good Place. If you aren't up to date, go binge watch and come back.

At the end of season three, Michael (Ted Danson) had a meltdown that forced Eleanor (Kristen Bell) into the lead role as the neighborhood's architect. It was an on-the-spot promotion that she didn't ask for. She was, however, the best choice for the job. 

And in the beginning, things are going well. Eleanor is confident. She's got a great staff. Michael is functioning again and can mentor her. Janet still knows everything.

Then the problems start, and they are different than the issues she faced in her previous role. And suddenly, her team members--who were so supportive when she was the unofficial team lead--are now angry and frustrated with her failed leadership.

Note what she says: "I did a bad job of being in charge of my own life, and now I'm supposed to be in charge of everyone else's life?"

While the stakes are much higher for Eleanor than they are for managers--seriously, the whole world will not end up in Hell if you make mistakes--it can feel that way. Suddenly, the pressure is more significant, the consequences are greater, and even though you were so sure of yourself in your previous role, the current one can seem overwhelming.

This is what being a new manager is like. And while the fate of humanity doesn't rest on your shoulders, you can learn a lot from Eleanor and Michaell in this scenario. Here's what you can learn.

Managing is hard, and that's okay.

There's a reason managers earn higher paychecks than individual contributors. (Generally, and they shouldn't always, but that's a topic for another article.) It's hard. You aren't just responsible for you and your life, but for projects and people. Your natural talent may not be enough to get you through the increased difficulties, and so you'll have to work hard to gain the new skills you'll need. There is always a learning curve.

You still need a mentor.

Eleanor doesn't vent to Tahani, but Michael. That's a good move, as Tahani, a former peer, and now a direct report, can't offer the mentoring she needs. Michael can. He can provide insight into what she can do and how he sees her talents.

Ask why your boss chose you.

Sometimes you might be afraid to go to your boss and say, "I'm struggling." You may think that the boss will say, "Oops, made a mistake. You're fired!" And, while a demon boss would do just that, Michael is reformed.

He reassures Eleanor that not only can she do this job, it's precisely because she's a "girl from Arizona" that she must be the one to do this. He points out that it's her humanity that allows him to do the things that he cannot.

Good leaders often look for people with strengths that they, themselves, do not have. It makes for a better team overall. So, ask what skills you had that prompted your boss to put you in this position and how you can use them.

Hard decisions are in the future.

Eleanor can't just quit--the stakes are too high. You can, though. You can say, "you know what? I want to be an individual contributor forever." And that's absolutely fine. There's not a single thing wrong with that. But, if you decide to stay in the management role, know that there will be hard choices ahead.

This is the beginning of Eleanor's management journey, and it's a difficult one. But, she gets better at it, and you will too. Ask for help when you need it. Vent when you need to. But keep going! And everything will be fine.

Published on: Oct 14, 2019
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